Is Reform the Solution to Anti-Semitism?

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A participant wears a kippah during a "wear a kippah" gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Carsten Koall / Getty Images)
A participant wears a kippah during a “wear a kippah” gathering to protest against anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Community House on April 25, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Carsten Koall / Getty Images)

Recently, I wrote a piece about my travels in parts of the Muslim World and how concerned I am to see the rise in anti-Semitism.

However, this phenomenon sadly is not restricted to the Muslim world. There has been an appalling rise in anti-Semitism across the Western World as well.

In the UK, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is accused of being anti-Semitic by endorsing Hamas as a freedom-fighting movement and by failing to suspend a Momentum faction leader who made “disgusting” comments about Holocaust Memorial Day.

In the U.S., a survey was conducted by the World Zionist Organization as part of the preparation for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which suggested that 70 percent of respondents experienced an anti-Semitic incident during the past year.

Canada is not immune.

B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reports that 2017 was the second consecutive year in which record numbers were reached. The study recorded 1,752 incidents, a 1.4%  increase nationally compared to 2016.

And of course we read the European mainland is simmering with anti-Semitism. The situation came to a head in France, when after a series of high-profile attacks on Jews, an open letter was published in a Parisian newspaper with 300 signatories, who included ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Manuel Valls, blaming “Islamist radicalization” for what it said was “quiet ethnic purging” in the Paris region, with abuse forcing Jewish families to move out.  The letter calls for verses of the Quran calling for the “murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and disbelievers” to be removed on the grounds they are “obsolete.”  Not surprisingly French Muslims have reacted to this letter with anger, citing insult and injury.

Regarding the French situation, it seems both sides are coming to the issue with a knee-jerk. The problem of anti-Semitism lies in misinterpretation of Quranic verses and part of the reform movement is to change the way in which Muslims understand, interpret and implement the Quran in their lives today.

Any reform has to start from the bottom and make its way up. 1.6 billion Muslims will not disassociate themselves from any verse of the Quran overnight. In the interim, we should have active programs against ‘armed Jihad’, certain aspects of sharia law, unauthenticated hadith and perpetuation of hate against any community.

If Muslims are taught to read the Quran with historical context, only then will we realize that in the West, certain aspects of the Quran do not apply in the 21st Century. For example polygamy, slavery, hatred of ‘the other’.

As well those cultural practices that are totally against human rights but have crept into the Muslim faith should be ridiculed and made redundant. For example:

  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Honor killings
  • Forced and underage marriage
  • Killing of apostates and homosexuals

We believe there is a reform happening but if 300 French people think that Islam can be reformed overnight, they are sadly mistaken. Unless the majority of Muslims are willing to engage with reform minded Muslims, to figure out a way to deal with communities that are already set in their ideology, the change will be very difficult, if not impossible.

And here lies the crux of the problem. For political purposes the Ayatollahs of the ruling regime in Iran (and as a reaction), the Sunni clerics (mostly in the Arab World) are adding fuel to the fire of anti-Semitism.


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Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is ​an adviser to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.

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